As prepared for delivery
The ongoing national discussion on our path forward towards a comprehensive energy strategy necessarily raises questions about climate change, national security, and economic stability.
In having this discussion, most experts have come to agree that any realistic strategy to reduce greenhouse gases and power our economy will require a diverse portfolio of energy sources. Renewables, clean coal and gas, and nuclear power must all play a role in moving our nation towards energy independence while balancing our nation’s economic interests.
To this end, the Energy Information Administration, the International Energy Agency, and many other independent groups all note that nuclear power must continue to play as large of a role if not a larger role than it currently does.
Furthermore, the Administration has highlighted the importance of safe nuclear power by producing the comprehensive Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap earlier this year.
Before us today is H.R. 5866, which amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to modernize and improve our Federal nuclear energy R&D programs. I introduced this legislation after close collaboration with my friend from Texas, Ralph Hall, who shares my belief that nuclear power research requires continued support from the Department of Energy and that we must continue to seek the answers to the challenges of high capital costs for nuclear power systems and management and recycling of nuclear waste.
Our nation’s 104 commercial reactors today produce 20 percent of our electricity and 70 percent of our emissions free energy. Clearly, if we are to increase our energy independence, nuclear must continue to be a large part of our nation’s energy mix.
However, despite a strong record of safety and operating efficiency, capital costs continue to rise for construction of new plants, and the question of how to manage the waste byproducts of nuclear fission remains. H.R. 5866 provides the programmatic architecture needed at DOE to answer and solve these outstanding issues.
Once the world leader in nuclear energy technologies, the U.S. is losing its competitive edge after decades of dormancy. Of the nearly 60 reactors currently under construction worldwide most are in Asia, with China making up the bulk of that using its own CPR-1000 reactor technology. This trend will represent billions of dollars in foregone opportunity for the U.S. But regaining our edge is not just a matter of keeping a foothold in a global marketplace with new competitors such as China.
With emerging threats from the likes of Iran and North Korea, and with a host of other countries recently announcing their nuclear ambitions, now more than ever it is imperative that the U.S. lead the world in developing and deploying the safest, most advanced, cost-effective, and proliferation-resistant nuclear energy and fuel cycle technologies.
As I mentioned, this bill is the result of a truly bipartisan effort over the past eight months that has won the support of the nuclear industry, nuclear suppliers, and numerous trade associations including:
the Nuclear Energy Institute;
the Next Generation Nuclear Plant Industry Alliance; and,
the American Chemical Society.